Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pooling Our Resources

The current economic picture has provided different challenges for most of us. One is the broken nest eggs of many retirees or the loss of jobs in the younger generation. What’s interesting is that many are returning to a way of life familiar in our country a few generations back when families pooled their resources and moved in together.

My Mother’s Mother, the kind that puts the word “Grand” into Grandmothers, lived with us my whole growing up life. She passed away just after I left home to get married. Going home was no longer the same without her there. The benefits of having Grandma there as I grew up were many. No matter how in trouble I was with my parents, Grandma always had a hug to give. My own Mother was very involved in community service and it was Grandma who taught me to cook and sew and do crafts. My Dad had a huge vegetable garden and lots of berry bushes and she could create amazing dishes out of what he brought in from the garden. She taught me how to enjoy creativity and creating something out of nothing. She was great at taking old gardening catalogs and doing collage with the beautiful images, or painting an old chair to make it a seating place we all fought over using, or cutting out rooms from Ladies Home Journal and making houses from them. We had such fun, she sang funny songs, she took us on long car rides through the country, beeping the car horn under a bridge so it echoed, and speeding up as we approached the bumps in the road, causing us to sail through the air more than a few times!

Oh the memories. Perhaps this is a good outcome from the economy, bringing the generations back into closer contact again. I know I would be a totally different person without Grandma’s daily presence in my life. Oh to be sure, there will be stress combining households and if possible, I recommend, from a feng shui point of view, that the living space allow for privacy and independence for all residents. For example, my Grandmother had her own living quarters attached to the end of our house so she could come and go as she pleased, entertain her own friends, have her own life, as could my parents. She cooked her own dinners, and lived on her own, but we shared things like costs of utilities, mortgage payments, homemade ice cream and the like. She came on vacation with us sometimes but not all times, she had parties and didn’t’ invite my parents and vice versa, so to remain independent for as long as possible is an important ingredient in this scenario.

Having a separate unit is often not in the cards but there are other things you can do to create a living space for a part of the family returning to the “nest”. If you have experienced this or have ideas, this will be a great forum for you. We all would love to hear what you have to say and what some of you have learned from experience.

Here are a few ideas to spark the conversation: combine two bedrooms with a bath for an in-law suite. Use an underused room in the house (like a formal living room) and create a suite there. Use a basement or a part of a 3 car garage. Install a lift to the second floor for aging parents. Replace hardware on cupboards so they can be used by older people.
What else have you come up with or seen used?


  1. I loved your post, Diantha, in that my dad's mom lived with us for many years while I was growing up. I can't even tell you how that enriched our lives - she cooked and cared for us. My parents were both working and my grandma was the nurturer for us in so many ways. Everyone should have someone in their lives who completely adores them...

    As to our parents, between the two of us, only my father is still living (everyone else died really young) and I don't think he'll be moving in with us anytime soon. He's in excellent health, living quite well and remarried to a much younger woman who keeps him young...;)

    However, we have often thought about how we'd manage if any of our close friends needed a place to stay for a while. In these uncertain times, who knows...

    Hugs, Silke

  2. That's so true, Silke. We may be taking in our children, or our friends, or our neighbors. Or vice versa. With this crazy world, anything can happen! And yes, living with a grandparent enriches our lives so much as kids. I think it was quite hard on my Dad who had his mother-in-law, his wife and 3 daughters plus a female dog. We finally got a couple of male cats but I don't think that quite did it for him! Thank you for sharing! xo

  3. I'm not sure I could do it. I'm so deeply independent, I think I'd be better off moving in with complete strangers than with a family member, especially my parents. I'm afraid we'd become front page news, in short order...

  4. What a great post and tribute to your grandmother! I always loved when My Grandmother would come, because she stayed for months.

    I feel blessed to have my Mother living with us...she lives in the guesthouse...and we garden together (and this week has been KILLER!)I feel so lucky for us to have her here!

  5. Carolynn, it IS very hard for the adults I think. For me as a kid, I LOVED it! But I know it was a big cost to my parents even though my Grandmother was wonderful and they had a whole separate housing situation. I'm with you...I am very independent. But I would have taken in our parents had it been necessary. It would have been really hard, I know that. My Dad did tell us to never take them in, so I know that having his Mother in law there was very difficult. Our parents are all gone now, but with the economy the way it is, we may end up with our kids back at home! Yikes!

  6. Linda, how lucky you still have your Mom around! I miss our Mothers so much, more so as time moves on. I remember my own Mother telling me how much she missed her Mother and how it seemed to increase, not decrease and now I find the same thing! Enjoy these times with her...they are so precious....xo

  7. Great post and creative ideas for living together with some privacy still preserved.

  8. Thank you Mermaid! Glad you enjoyed it! xo

  9. Hi Diantha,
    When I lived in New Orleans (before hurricane Katrina) my sister and her three kids lived with us. I had a three bedroom home with 1 bath and a den. Her two daughters and my daughter are like sisters, so the three of them would take turns sleeping in either bedroom designated for them. We turned the den into a bedroom for my sister, which my nephew then made his room along with her(he is her shadow). With one bathroom we never had to argue(a huge blessing). To this day she wants me to move back, so that we can live together again, but my heart won't allow me to live in N.O. anymore.

    Today my oldest nephew (15 y/o) is living with us to help my baby sister(his mom-my other sister). Family is very important to me, so I would do anything for them. :)

    Have A Blessed Day

  10. your post brought back memories of my mother and grandmother who are no more.It is true they are very precious .
    Diantha,off the topic,thank you for the encouraging comment at my blog and I have sent you a mail regarding thank you cards.
    blessings for abundance

  11. Tabitha, you have certainly lived under some crowded conditions. My sister and her three daughters lived with us briefly once (less than a month) but we all loved it. I think because it was temporary and we knew it, it was easy, and we so enjoyed their company. Our three sons and her three daughters were great company for each other. BUT we did have two bathrooms which helped tremendously! I don't know how you managed with all those people with one bathroom! Brava to you! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

    Sema, yes, they are so precious. Typically I didn't realize how much so until they were gone. I'll be looking for your email on the cards. Thank you! xo

  12. What a wonderful post. It's a shame it seems to take hardships and tragedies for us to realize the sacredness of family, togetherness, helping our fellow beings here on earth. We gain so much from sharing, caring and togetherness. The ancient societies knew how to cherish and even honor the elderly... somehow, a lot of people have lost that. Seems like as in other parts of our society, we throw out the old to bring in the new, a throwaway society if you will, and some of that carried over to family life and the humanity of life... the elderly, the poor, the less fortunate, were "thrown out" so to speak, put aside, ..we turn our heads and ignore....
    There is so much to gain from the wisdom of others: their love, their caring, their lessons learned through their life, their overall outlook and take on life. The wealth of knowledge within people is amazing. The wealth of compassion and great-fullness..... We can learn and feel so much when we embrace our family, friends and people, really embrace them whole heartedly with our own compassion and physical giving. In doing so we gain so much....
    Thank you for bringing us back to the goodness of life, family Hopes and dreams. It's through sharing and caring we embrace the fullness of life and all it's potentials. I will look at people differently today, family, friends... I will embrace them bring them close and find the "flavor" they bring to my table of life. Thank you again. Love and Light, Nina P.

  13. I don't have advice to share on this post but I so enjoyed reading about your memories with your grandmother. She sounds like such a neat lady. Thank you for sharing that today!

  14. Nina, maybe that is the reason for hardships and tragedies: to learn what is important and sacred. I don't know but I do know that the richness of our lives is woven from the threads of connection and wisdom we receive from others. Thank you for your wonderful, thoughtful comments and for coming to my blog. xo

  15. Jodi, yes, I am very lucky to have had this particular Grandmother. She made a huge difference in my life. xo


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